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Arrests Spark Protests, Border Closing in Thailand

In October 2009, Thai activists wave Thai flags and chant slogans during a rally against Prime Minister Hun Sen's decision to make ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra his economic adviser, and the recent protest may just worsen the already tense rela

Cambodian officials ruled out the demands of protesters in Bangkok Friday who want the release of seven Thai nationals charged Thursday with illegal entry.

The suspects, including a Thai member of parliament and supporters of the “yellow shirt” People's Alliance for Democracy, were arrested Wednesday while reportedly looking into claims of Cambodian encroachment on Thai soil.

Authorities say they were caught half a kilometer inside Cambodia and near a military area.

Members of the Thailand Patriot Network gathered in front of the Cambodian Embassy to call for the release of the group. Protesters burned a coffin bearing the photograph of Prime Minsiter Hun Sen and vowed to continue their rally until those arrested are returned to Thailand.

“We cannot accept what they have raised,” Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told VOA Khmer Friday. He confirmed there had been protesters in front of the embassy, but said they dispersed before noon.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Pirumya has said his government will respect the judicial process here and has not so far called for a political release.

Meanwhile, Cambodian officials say Thailand has closed down an important checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey province, preventing Cambodians from crossing into Thailand there.

Many Cambodians typically use the crossing, in Obei Chon, in O'Chov district, where they travel for day labor on Thai farms and to purchase goods at Thai markets.

Cambodia has closed the border to Thai nationals as a result and to prevent Thai “revenge,” said Keo Sen governor of O'Chov district. “We must protect the safety of the people,” he told VOA Khmer.